Food Bank re­duces de­liv­ery fee for Ce­cil pro­grams

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— Ce­cil County’s feed­ing pro­grams wel­comed the news that the Mary­land Food Bank has re­duced the price it charges for food de­liv­ery from $250 to $100.

In Oc­to­ber, the food bank upped the rate it charges for de­liv­ery to groups, such as Ni­canor and Ch­e­sa­peake City Ec­u­meni­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, from $50 to as much as $300. That change prompted an out­cry from county feed­ing pro­grams, who said they’d now have less money to spend on food. Since Oc­to­ber, only one county or­ga­ni­za­tion — Ray of Hope Mis­sion Cen­ter — had placed an or­der with the food bank.

But this week, the lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions said they were happy to hear about the rate re­duc­tion, which went into ef­fect on July 1.

“We can now af­ford more food for the peo­ple that need it,” Michael Flan­nery, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ni­canor, said Mon­day.

Right off the bat, Flan­nery said the more than 50 per­cent drop means Ni­canor can add more chil­dren to its sum­mer feed­ing program.

“We have 174 now. We’re hop­ing to go over 200,” he said.

Ni­canor pro­vides bags of gro­ceries to chil­dren re­ceiv­ing free or re­duced­price break­fast and lunch in nine Ce­cil County pub­lic schools and will add Per­ryville Ele­men­tary School to the list when it re­opens in Au­gust.

“I was pleas­antly sur­prised with the de­ci­sion,” said Eileen Viars, pres­i­dent of the Ch­e­sa­peake City Ec­u­meni­cal As­so­ci­a­tion. “It def­i­nitely does help.”

Court­ney Bar­rett, di­rec­tor of Ray of Hope Mis­sion Cen­ter in Port De­posit, found out about the rate re­duc­tion while on the phone with the food bank to place an or­der.

“I was shocked, but that’s great. This is much more do-able,” Bar­rett said.

She had not placed an or­der in a long time.

“We were down to bare bones,” Bar­rett said. “I was just go­ing to suck it up and place a big or­der to hold us for a cou­ple months.”

The food bank raised the de­liv­ery charge in Oc­to­ber

ELK­TON

The re­duc­tion of de­liv­ery fees by the Mary­land Food Bank will make it eas­ier for feed­ing pro­grams to get re­sources, after a change to de­liv­ery hubs was un­pop­u­lar in the county.

as part of its ef­fort to make up a $750,000 short­fall. Food bank of­fi­cials said then that be­fore the de­liv­ery charge in­crease, the food bank was op­er­at­ing on an out­dated busi­ness model.

“The de­liv­ery poli­cies that have been in place since 2006 were ap­pro­pri­ate — and sus­tain­able — when the Mary­land Food Bank dis­trib­uted less food,” of­fi­cials said last year. “At cur­rent vol­umes, how­ever, this model is no longer suit­able. As a re­sult, we needed to fine­tune the way we dis­trib­ute food, and part of that was im­ple­ment­ing new de­liv­ery fees be­gin­ning Oct. 15.”

On Mon­day, Meg Kim­mel, vice pres­i­dent of ex­ter­nal af­fairs for the food bank, main­tained that the $250 fee was “the true cost of de­liv­ery to these ar­eas.” How­ever, since Oc­to­ber, the food bank has gone through a re­struc­tur­ing process that has al­lowed it to cap the de­liv­ery fees. Though Kim­mel noted that only the coun­ties far­thest from the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Halethorpe head­quar­ters got the re­duc­tion.

Kim­mel said the cut was also in re­sponse to its mem­ber or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“We also heard from our part­ners that the de­liv­ery fees were hard to nav­i­gate,” she said.

When the food bank in­sti­tuted the higher fees last fall, it sug­gested that sev­eral groups could share the de­liv­ery fee cost by cre­at­ing a “Hub” for mul­ti­ple or­ders. But this strat­egy didn’t work for Ce­cil County.

“There’s not enough or­ga­ni­za­tions out our way to

par­tic­i­pate,” Bar­rett said, not­ing that Ray of Hope and Ni­canor part­nered only one time. “It was a big flop, re­ally.”

Viars said that had the food bank in­creased the charge to just $100 in the first place there may not have been the back­lash.

“Donors started re­al­iz­ing they were giv­ing the food to be given away and that wasn’t hap­pen­ing,” Viars said. “Camp­bell’s Soup now de­liv­ers di­rectly to us.”

She is also mak­ing con­tacts with lo­cal ware­houses to get food do­na­tions made di­rectly in county in­stead of go­ing through the food bank. She finds it frus­trat­ing the amount of food that gets thrown away, which could be do­nated to feed the hun­gry.

“We have li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance for this,” Viars said, adding the donor com­pa­nies would have no re­spon­si­bil­ity. She con­tin­ues to search for lo­cal do­na­tions.

For now, the peo­ple who run these feed­ing pro­grams are breath­ing a lit­tle eas­ier.

“It’s a good thing. The fees were un­ob­tain­able be­fore,” said Gerry Crock­ett, HELP Cen­ter vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor. “We ac­tu­ally didn’t or­der food through the Mary­land Food Bank be­cause of that.”

In talk­ing with other feed­ing pro­grams, Crock­ett learned that no one in Ce­cil County ap­peared to have or­dered since the in­crease, ex­cept for Ray of Hope Mis­sion Cen­ter.

“I just or­dered through Sav-A-Lot,” Crock­ett said, adding other pantries have sim­i­lar ar­range­ments with lo­cal gro­cery stores.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

An army of vol­un­teers helped Ch­e­sa­peake City Ec­u­meni­cal As­so­ci­a­tion un­load a do­na­tion from Camp­bell’s Soup Com­pany in April. Non­prof­its like CCEA wel­comed the Mary­land Food Bank’s de­liv­ery charges re­duc­tion, say­ing it will fur­ther help fam­i­lies in need.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

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